Apprenticeship and Diversity Initiatives

Diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives have taken on more urgency recently.  The pandemic has elevated the conversation to the highest organizational levels and required government, business, civil society and individuals to address the widespread inequities for underserved populations. 

Much has been written on the benefits of developing a diverse workforce. These benefits include increased innovation, improved understanding of customer base by reflecting the served community, new problem-solving techniques, better ability to recruit all populations, and higher marks on social responsibility metricsall of which have generated higher financial returns. 

Many employers are re-evaluating the best methods to tap into the inherent talent of people of color, returning citizens, people with disabilities, opportunity youth, LGBTQ individuals and others so as to improve operations and meet societal goals. 

Apprenticeships represent a proven tool to diversify the talent in an organization because they can help in recruitment and retention:  

  • By working with community groups, workforce partners, community colleges and others, recruiters can mine non-traditional talent pools for candidates with great potential who can be trained on the job, rather than having to rely on individuals with industry-specific knowledge.
  • The “earn and learn” model is particularly beneficial to people who are new to the workforce because they don’t have to choose between work and school.
  • People who participate in apprenticeship programs tend to have better retention rates than those selected through traditional hiring programs because the employer has demonstrated a commitment to former apprentices and gained their loyalty to the organization.
  • Apprentices are trained to meet the company’s needs and expectations, increasing the alignment between their skills and the employer’s needs

For the diversity efforts to be successful, employers need to be intentional in their efforts to instill equity into all aspects of the apprentice’s journey.  This requires reviewing all elements of apprenticeship design and implementation, including recruitment and selection. Employers should make the applications available/accessible to multiple groups, ensure that the selection process recognizes diverse populations, make an effort to recognize when an apprentice may need additional coaching or support, and engage in post-apprenticeship efforts to ensure that workers who have completed the program enjoy continued success.